by C. Asaravala. Photography by Neef Gilbert
It was the eighties, not the seventies
or sixties, which were the greatest years for muscle cars.
The cars of the late '60s and '70s were turning ten-plus years
old and hitting peak depreciation. Add to this the emerging
fuel crisis and emissions laws, and you had low demand for
an abundance of used Detroit iron. The high-school students
of the 80's, whether forced into these cars by desire or by
affordability, would be the biggest contributors to muscle
car culture as we know it today.
Take Tim Gilbert for instance. Fresh out of high-school in
1981 he bought a 1968 Torino for a mere $400. The 390 FE equipped
formal hardtop set the wheels in motion for Tim to own a variety
of Torino's over the next 26 years.
Fast forward to 2004. Tim, now an aerospace engineer in Southern
California, has never quite found the one Torino he's always
been after - a factory big block 4-speed 1970 GT. He desires
the GT over the more sought after Cobra because in Tim's eyes,
the SportsRoof body and GT options make the most aggressive
looking Torino produced. In
his quest to find this car he ponders why Ford never put the
Boss 429 motor in the Torino. The closest they got was the
1969 Torino Talledega built for NASCAR, however the production
versions only came with 428 Cobra Jet engines. Somewhere in
this day dream Tim decides he should build the Boss Torino
that Ford never did.
Not before long Tim and his father are driving from Los Angeles
to Oklahoma City to pick up the starting materials: one 1970
Torino GT 'J' code (see sidebar). It's an original 429 4-speed
car, and the perfect candidate for his Boss Torino concept.
The $6500 final price for the Torino may be the cheapest invoice
in the Boss Torino project file. Three years later Tim is
somewhere in the $40,000 range in labor and parts - a number
he reluctantly tallied only upon our request. The Boss Torino
project is well beyond the halfway point now, and this is
where we pick up the story. We aren't writing this story as
a how-to, because this really isn't a project many, or any,
of us would ever take on. However we do write it from a journalistic
viewpoint because, while big-budget cars are created all the
time, the effort and story behind them is rarely documented.
It's history in the making, and if anything we can all gain
some inspiration from it. So follow along over the next several
months as we see Tim Gilbert's Boss Torino dream come to fruition.
Ford produced three distinct generations of the Torino
between 1968 and 1976 and fans align themselves respectively.
The '68 and '69 years emulated the Fairlane body style
from which the model evolved. In 1970 and 1971 the body
style changed dramatically with a more aggressive profile.
It's these two years that many argue are the most aggressive
looking. The full-framed Torino's from 1973-1976 shared
some of the previous generation's styling cues, but tend
to have a fan base solely dedicated to this era of Torino.
The hideaway headlights made the
1970 Torino GT look purely demonic. Surprisingly this
grill style was only available on wagons, Brougham edition,
and the GT models. The Cobra received standard round head
The "SportsRoof" body
style and single tail-light panel carry the menacing image
through to the rear of the car. We like how the bumpers
are also tightly integrated into the body lines.
Tim tackled the suspension first. He lowered the car nearly
2" around using custom coil springs from Deaborn
While the body appears fairly straight, Tim said that
one of the previous owners had taken a sledge hammer to
the wheel wells in attempts to fit bigger tires. The dents
were concealed with Bondo.
Tim's dad had an F150 so together
they made the journey into Americas Heartland to pick
up the car. Tim says though the car was rough, it got
plenty of looks on the drive home. Note the gas prices
in late 2004 - the dollar-eighty range!
Even the high-performance Torino came with a lack luster
dash. Tim installed a tachometer to keep an eye on the
rpms, but plans call for installation of a gauge cluster
from a 1970 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler. They came with functional
tach, speedo, oil and water gauges.
Back in his garage Tim began the
tear down process. The car was originally red. The floor
pans were in surprisingly good shape for the Oklahoma
One of Tim's criteria in searching for a Torino GT was
that all of the sheet metal had to be original and in
decent shape. Tim says the only sheetmetal he had to replace
was the hood and the front right fender extension.
The rust damage on the car wasn't
all that bad considering the cars origin. Perhaps Oklahoma
is OK after all.
The severity of the damage inflicted
by the previous owners' attempts to make room for bigger
tires can be seen here. "And this is the good side,"
Tim told us.
With the Torino striped to it's skeleton, you can bet
Tim was wondering just how deep he'd gotten himself into.
As he puts it, "If Jay Leno says he's the President
of the More Money than Brains Club, I must be the Executive
Stripped down to a rolling shell
the Torino is ready for it's first stop, Dan Fink Metal
Works in Huntington Beach. It's now early 2006.